Thursday, March 31, 2011

Violet's Cold Breaks Our Hearts For Another Day

My most interesting conversation yesterday:

“Hello. Orchard Park Pediatrics. How can I help you?”

“Hi. My wife and I were just there with our daughter. She has a fever, and I was wondering…the doctor told us to give her infant’s Tylenol. I bought infant’s Ibuprofen by mistake. It’s basically the same thing, right?”

“Oh, no. We do not recommend giving Ibuprofen to infants under six months old.”

“What if we already gave it to her?”



“You shouldn’t give her any more.”

131 days old

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Curse you, armpit thermometer! Hello, rectal!

Last night, Violet’s cold took a bad turn, and by this morning, she was refusing to eat. She felt hot, but the armpit thermometer told us more than once that her temperature was 97.9. Remember yesterday, when I wrote that if you can get a baby to smile, then they’re not that sick? Well, we couldn’t get Violet to smile for anything. When she started moaning, “uhhhhhhhhhh…uhhhhhhhhh…uhhhhhhhhh,” over and over again, we decided it was time to call the doctor.

That was at 9 AM. By the time we arrived back home at 12:30, we’d found out that Violet’s temperature was actually 102 (Curse you, armpit thermometer! Hello, rectal!), her neck rash was the worst the pediatrician had seen in his 27 years of practice (what parent wouldn’t love to hear that?), we had to take her to get a chest x-ray (when they told us we couldn’t go into the room with her, I asked, “Can we stand near the room?), and I found out that there’s not just children’s Tylenol, there is also infant’s Tylenol, which led to great confusion in the medicine aisle at the grocery store, returns, and more phone calls to the pediatrician’s office (but I am still positive that when the doctor sent us on our way, he told us to get children’s Tylenol). The chest x-ray turned out clean, and the pain reliever brought her out of her fever-induced haze for an hour or so, giving us a glimpse of our old Violet. Her nose and chest are still extremely congested, the moans have returned, and I'm ready to go out and buy some leeches.

130 days old

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Punch and Judy

I don't know if you remember your last hangover. I remember mine. It was five years ago. Two friends and I were camping way up north in the wilds of Quebec and I figured I couldn't do much harm, so I went a little overboard on beer, vodka, and orange juice (I know, what was I thinking?). For most of the next day, I had that horrible hangover-related feeling that I would never again feel well. That I would feel awful for the rest of my life. Today, I was reminded of that feeling, listening to the hacking cough coming from Violet, watching her trying to breathe through her tiny, stuffed nostrils, and hearing her frustrated cry as we continued to clean and medicate the rash on her neck. It's hard to imagine that she will ever get better, especially when we look at pictures from a few weeks ago and wonder what the hell happened - dwelling on what we might have done differently. What makes it worse is that I'm the one that brought home the cold. But in reading through our baby books, looking frantically for ways to alleviate some of Voilet's suffering, I came across a line that gave Linda and me some comfort. Apparently, someone did a study that showed if a baby is sick, but you can still get her to smile, then she's not seriously sick. So Linda and I put on quite a show today, doing anything and everything we could think of to squeeze some smiles out of our little girl. She paid out more than a few times. After I finish this, we'll work out our routines for tomorrow. I'm thinking puppets...

129 days old

Monday, March 28, 2011

Another Milestone

Yesterday, Violet rolled over for the first time! I had her on her belly, trying to dry out the rash on her neck, and, without warning, she tucked in her arm and rolled over onto her back. Our eyes locked, both sets wide with surprise, and I yelled to Linda to come see. I rolled Violet back onto her belly, and she obliged with another performance. A little reluctant to accept evidence of Violet's growing up, Linda said, "You're just happy because now you have a post." She knows me too well. Watching Violet roll over brings that unexpected and odd blend of pride and sadness that I think only parents must feel.

128 days old

Sunday, March 27, 2011


I sat down to write a letter today. In the district where I teach, the school board has to cut a big chunk of the district’s budget, and I could potentially lose my job. The other second grade teachers and I decided to write a letter to give the board members our two cents, and I volunteered to take the first crack at putting something down on paper. I like writing letters because it is a solitary activity, and I can take my time doing it, considering each word before putting it in its final resting place. I want to do more than write letters, however. I want to be the one standing up at a school board meeting, voicing my opinion eloquently and forcefully. Unfortunately, it’s not who I am and it’s a fault in myself – this fear of confrontation - that I dislike immensely. It’s what makes me a poor environmentalist and a poor vegan, too. Both of these avocations (or lifestyles - whatever you want to call them) need people who can speak out, change minds, and inspire their fellow humans to alter how they do things in order to move our world towards a place that is better for every living thing on it. When I went vegetarian, I said I would keep it to myself, and just talk about if someone asked me. When I started my career working at a nature center, I told myself that education was how I would do my part for the environment – that by teaching people about the natural world, I could bring them to a place where they would make positive decisions on their own – but both of those ideas were cop-outs. They were passive reactions to problems that need active solutions. Not that education or quiet examples are bad or unnecessary components; they are wonderful things, but I’ve never bought the adage that, “If you can reach just one person, it’s worth it,” not when it’s possible to do so much more. On top of that, I often found that when it came to the people who attended my nature programs, I was usually preaching to the choir. There’s a long way between being a quiet example and being an overbearing proselytizer, and I need to find something that’s comfortably closer to the latter, somewhere that is more effective than where I am now. More importantly, I need to find the courage to open my mouth, especially if I want Violet to be someone who’s confident enough to speak her mind when it’s appropriate or necessary. I’d like to be a good example of how to do this, so here’s a small step in the right direction: Spring is here, although the warm weather is not. Migrant birds are already arriving, and setting up territories. Winging in from southern states and even as far as away Central and South America, birds like the Scarlet Tanager and the Blackburnian Warbler will soon be setting up nests in a tree not far from your house. The problem is that every year across the United States, an exotic predator unnecessarily kills 500 million songbirds. The worst part? These deaths could be avoided because the exotic predator is the house cat. Cats kill more than a thousand times the number of birds killed by power-generating wind turbines, and all that needs to be done is to keep cats inside. Such a move benefits the cats, too – indoor cats have an average lifespan that’s twice as long as outdoor cats. There are many websites devoted to the benefits of keeping cats inside (and the dangers facing outdoor cats). Here's a good one from the American Bird Conservancy:

127 days old

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Kicking a Kitten

The crade cap is, finally, all but gone - just a few spots of red mar Violet's fuzzy pate. Her neck, unfortunately, has gotten worse. The band has grown wider and more angry, and every four hours, we have to rinse off the affected area, dry it, and apply the presrcibed cream. With every step, Violet wails louder and turns a deeper shade of red. I have to hold her arms down, while Linda does the applying, to keep her hands out of the cream, and I can see Violet looking at me through her squinting, tear-rimmed eyes. I'm left feeling as though I've just kicked a kitten. A really cute one.

Back when Violet received her first vaccine, I wrote a post about how I felt when the nurse pricked Violet, when she screamed in a way I had yet to hear, and on some visceral level, part of me wanted to harm that nurse for inflicting pain on my daughter. And now here I am, restraining Violet as she screams. I know it's for her own good. I know it's all just part of being a parent, and I just have to do it. I know (or hope) that Violet won't even remember any of this. But it still stinks, and more than anything, I hope that tomorrow morning, we'll wake up to see her neck looking a little less red, a little less angry.

126 days old

Friday, March 25, 2011

A Year Ago...Part 2

One year ago, I was walking my class back from lunch when my cell phone started vibrating. We aren’t allowed to use cell phones in school, but I figured my situation that day merited a bending of the rules. I pulled the phone from my pocket and flipped it open to see one new text arrived. I’d like to say that I savored the moment, appreciating its enormity. I stood on the threshold of unknowable change. But I hit the “OK” button as soon as I saw I had a text, and there, in small black letters on a green background, was Linda’s brief but enormous message: “I’m due Nov.18”. I read it twice, three times, and again, and walked in and out of my classroom the same amount. A fellow teacher (who's also a close friend) happened to be walking by, and without thinking about whether I should or not, I held up the phone for him to see. I had to show someone. Thank God he was walking by or I might have told the class. I can still picture - and still appreciate - the widening of his eyes. The rest of that afternoon? It was like winning the lottery and not being able to tell anybody - I had to go along, pretending that I didn't know what I knew.

125 days old

Thursday, March 24, 2011

A Year Ago...

What memories will flicker across my brain when I recline on my deathbed? I can imagine what a few of them will be: getting lost in the woods with my best friend when I was seven, saying my one line in the second grade play (“Oh, how I wish I could join in the fight!”), my fourth grade teacher reading us “A Cricket in Times Square”, my oldest brother sticking up for me, my first kiss, the first time I unhooked a bra, my first climb up a mountain with friends during an early winter storm, proposing to Linda under the Eiffel Tower, our wedding, standing on the rim of the Grand Canyon – so many, and so many others that might or might not make the cut. One other that will definitely be there took place one year ago – the night when Linda took the test that told us she was most likely pregnant. I wrote a post back in November about that night, but I didn’t write about how we reacted. I need to start by explaining that one of the reasons why Linda and I are so well suited is because of how our personalities mesh with each other. We balance out. I, for example, worry less than I should about certain things while Linda worries more. When Linda showed me the pregnancy test, I was breathlessly excited, while she immediately started to worry. While we had never been completely against the idea of having kids, we hadn’t planned on it, and once Linda had reached 35, the fear of complications left her mind more or less made up that children of our own were not a likely option. So, at the sight of those two pink lines, she started worrying about possible problems with a pregnancy, the fact that we only had (and still only have) one bedroom, while I was thinking how fun it would be to have a someone to dig in the woods with. Linda worked herself up to the point where she had to play her zombie-shooting game on the Wii to relax and take her mind off everything, while I vacillated between trying to reassure her that everything would be great and that we shouldn’t get ahead of ourselves, that pregnancy tests are known to be unreliable. By the end of the night, I had mostly convinced myself that the test was probably negative, and I wasn’t sure how I felt about that. Linda planned on trying see her doctor the next day to get the results confirmed. She had a hard time sleeping, but I probably dozed right off.

124 days old

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Has her warranty expired?

Now, in addition to a spectacular bout of cradle cap blossoming across Violet’s little noggin, she also some sort of yeast infection moldering among the folds of her neck. It started out as a minor, roundish spot of raw-looking skin, and over the last three days, it matured into a collar of angry, red patches stretching from one ear to the other. We tried patting the folds dry, we tried washing the area with soap, we applied cornstarch and, lastly, talc, but every attempt left Violet screaming and the red skin unchanged. The doctor told us today that both afflictions are nothing to worry about, that most babies get one, the other, or both. She said with a dab or two of double antibiotic ointment, the yeast will clear up, and that the cradle cap will disappear when it’s ready. Her words are comforting to a degree, but this morning, I couldn’t help picturing driving back to the hospital and walking up to the front door, huddled around Violet, our feet wet in the snow, asking if they would let us back in - explaining that we need a little more time before we’re ready to be on our own.

123 days old

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Say It Ain't So...

My streak has ended - dozens of late night feedings under my belt without a single, significant instance of spit up. Today at , Violet decided it was time to christen my bathrobe with an ample amount of milk.

122 days old

Monday, March 21, 2011

Sunday, March 20, 2011

The Money Shot

We were sitting on the couch last night with Violet, Violet in Linda’s lap, me next to them. At one point, Linda lifted Violet up over her head, trying to get a laugh. She got a smile out of her on the first lift. On the second, just as Linda was about to bring her back down, Violet casually opened her mouth and spit up. It seemed to happen in slow motion, and I knew I should grab a burp cloth but all I could do was watch and ask, “Did she…? In your mouth?” To her credit, Linda was laughing, grimacing, and carefully lowering Violet back into her lap as she nodded.

And then, by dumb luck, I caught this picture today…

120 days old

Saturday, March 19, 2011

The Understudy Steps Up

Did you know that today was the feast of St. Joseph? For a reason I’ve never taken the time to look up, the Catholic Church chose March 19 as the day to honor the world’s second most famous carpenter. One tradition associated with the feast day is serving a meatless dinner, and every year, my aunt honors that tradition by putting together a massive spread for family and friends. Even bigger than her magnificent Christmas Eve party, my aunt’s St. Joseph’s dinner leaves me wondering how she could willingly take on such a massive task, but I’m glad she does. Besides being one of the rare instances where vegans like Linda and me can eat almost everything, it gives me another chance to see family that I otherwise only see at Christmas. This year, Linda and I were also looking forward to bringing Violet to the party. A fellow father described our feelings best when he said, “After being cooped up inside for a while, you need to get out and have people tell you how beautiful your daughter is.” But it was not to be. Linda’s flu from last weekend caught up with me yesterday and I spiked a fever last night. I figured a large gathering was not the best place for me, and Linda didn’t want to leave me home alone tonight, so we had to cancel. My brother happened to call this afternoon, and when Linda told him we weren’t coming to the St. Joseph’s dinner and why, his response was, “Oh…we were looking forward to seeing the baby…” I know it makes sense that Violet is more exciting than Linda and me – and she’s easier to pick up and squeeze, but it’s something that’s interesting to realize – we are no longer the main attraction of “Linda and Bill”. And it doesn’t bother us at all. We feel the same way.

119 days old

Friday, March 18, 2011

And Before You Know It...

I came home from work today and spent some time watching Violet play on her play mat. It is a visual feast for her eyes, with supports coming up from each corner and crossing over her, with animals and rattles hanging down, lights flashing, and maniacal music on endless repeat. It reminds me of the aversion therapy in Clockwork Orange, but Violet seems to enjoy it for short bursts of time. She usually lets us know when time is up with a complaining-sort-of-cry, but lately she has started to lift her head and legs, as if she getting ready to leave on her own. Today, she surprised me by rolling almost onto her side. I stuck out a hand and supported her, waiting to see if she could roll herself onto her belly. She teetered on her side for a few seconds, before rolling onto her back. I helped her onto her side a few more times, curious to see if she could get the hang of rolling all the way over, while simultaneously hoping that she would not.

118 days old
Thank you to everyone for your comments on last night's post - you've given us a lot to talk about here.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Appliance's Lullaby

Linda was talking to a friend today and mentioned how we use the dustbuster to help Violet go to sleep. Her friend responded, "Oh, she's a white noise baby. Well, as long as you're not using it every night." But we are. Nearly every night we put Violet down and she cries. We wait 5-10 minutes, and if she's still crying, we turn on the dustbuster and within 5 minutes, she's out. We turn it off, and she stays asleep. It works like a charm, but I'd be lying if I said it wasn't bothering me a bit, our dependency on this aural crutch. I've looked through books and online, but there doesn't seem to be a definitive answer out there. Some say white noise at bedtime won't hurt a baby at all - that it's a beneficial sleep aid, others say that they'll become dependent on it, and still others say they may become dependent on it and so what if they do? (Violet must know this is on my mind because tonight she went down sans dustbuster.) What's your take on it? Are we warping Violet or is it no big deal?

117 days old

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Violet's Homage to Gorbachev

Violet’s baby acne came and went about six weeks ago. It was strange to see, those blemishes on a little person that your gut tells you should be so pure. The books and the doctors all shrugged it off. “It’s very common,” they said. “You don’t need to do anything. It’ll clear up on its own,” but we couldn’t help but feel as though we’d done something wrong. And now cradle cap has arrived (either that, or Violet’s caught a flesh-eating bacteria). What started as a reddish, quarter-sized spot on the back of her head, has blossomed into an Antarctica-shaped mass of flaky, brownish lumps all over the back of her head, with a few islands of red on her forehead (New Zealand?). Again, the doctors and the books tell us not to fret – that it doesn’t bother Violet and we should just leave it alone, but it’s hard not to feel that something should be done (and Linda’s a picker from way back). Linda didn’t want to take any pictures tonight; she felt we shouldn’t capture Violet’s head in such a state, but when I sat down to write this post, I thought of Violet’s birth. At the time, Linda forbid any pictures or video of the delivery and I agreed, but afterwards, when the realization of how little any of us remember of even the most memorable experience set in, we regretted the decision. I’m figuring that 3 months, 3 years, or 30 years from now, when Violet’s cradle cap is a distant memory, we’ll be okay with the picture below.

116 days old

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Baby steps down the trail...

It was warm when I took my students outside for recess today - not summer-warm, but warm enough to let you know that winter will soon be complete. Feeling the absence of the cold, I knew what I wanted to do. As soon as I got home, I suited up Violet and took her out for her first walk in the woods.

115 days old

Monday, March 14, 2011

Stopping Violet's Feeding on a Snowy Evening

Today was a day off for the students in my district, but not for the teachers. We attended a workshop, and its focus was poetry. It was conducted by Amy Ludwig Vanderwater, an author and teacher who makes these day-long meetings not only bearable, she makes them worthwhile (She also runs a fantastic blog that I’ve mentioned before – the poem farm – and she planted the seed that led to this blog’s birth). She allowed us plenty of time to write today, and even challenged us to write some poetry. It had been a while for me (I wrote LOTS of bad poetry in college), but I had fun dusting off the poetic synapses in my brain. Not surprisingly, one of my poems was about Violet:

The bottle's nipple smells
Like something it shouldn’t.
Something about Violet’s eyes
Tells me so
Before I hold it to my nose.
Garlic? Ketchup?
The odor’s identity eludes me.
I ask Violet if she cares.
And stick the nipple back in.
She eats.
I guess the answer is no.
Another thing to wash at 4 AM
Seems like so much work.

114 days old

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Beauty is power; a smile is its sword

I’m starting to see how a baby’s mood can influence the mood in the house and even in my own head. When Violet is happy and generous with her smiles, things are good. When she is upset, it’s hard to think of anything else. My cousin, a man’s man if there ever was one, told me that when his six-year daughter is mad at him, he can’t get anything else done until he is back in her good graces. Recently, he had to scold her about something and, it being a school night, she had to go to bed before they made up. “I couldn’t get a wink of sleep,” he told me. “It just kept eating at me. I almost woke her up just so I could take care of it.”  I wonder if I’ll be the same way – or if I’ll take it too far, letting her get away with murder to avoid upsetting her. I can’t imagine that I will; being a teacher, I can appreciate how when it comes to discipline, a little unpleasantness in the present is beneficial in the long run. At least, that’s how I work it in my classroom. I can imagine that when it comes to Violet, my willpower will be more at issue.

113 days old

The title of this post is a quote from Charles Reade (June 8, 1814 - April 11, 1884), an English novelist and dramatist, best known for The Cloister and the Hearth.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Ghost in the Machine

Looking back through my journals from last spring and posts from last summer, I am just now coming to realize the futility in saying, “I know I’ll do this,” or, “I know I’ll never do that,” when it comes to parenting. What prompted my look back was a comment made by a close friend, someone with two kids. He asked me, “So, are you guys taking any trips this summer?”

A little background: After his children were born, his wife was extremely reluctant to leave them for any amount of time. For nearly two years, one or both of them were always with the children. No nights out, no weekend getaways. When he told me this at the time, it seemed irrational to me – irrational and unthinkable. He didn’t disagree, but he didn’t seem too upset by the situation, either. I, on the other hand, felt sorry for him and a little grateful that Linda and I were still on our own, able to go anywhere we wanted, whenever we wanted, which we often did. It was rare that a month or two would go by without a weekend away. When I told Linda about it, she agreed with me completely. Then, of course, we got pregnant, and a few months in, the subject of going away came up. I mentioned how we should be thinking about who could watch our boy or girl when we went away for weekends. To my surprise, she said we should wait and see, that she wasn’t sure how she would feel once the baby arrived. Feeling a little abandoned, I silently hoped she would feel the same as I did, that getting away was essential, that time for just the two of us was necessary.

So here we are, with Violet a little over three months old, and my friend asked me this week, “So, are you guys taking any trips this summer?” and I said, “Probably not without Violet.” He reminded me of how I reacted when he first told me about his wife’s reluctance to leave the kids, and it surprised me, the realization of how my own perception has changed. What seemed irrational before Violet came along is now understandable. For better of for worse, the two of us won’t be going away without Violet anytime soon, and I’m surprised at how easily that idea sits in my head.

And that’s just one example of how my brain has been unexpectedly rewired. I sat at a table the other day, listening to a future mother talk about what she would and wouldn’t do when she had a child, and I couldn’t help but hear myself in her words. Maybe a better parent than I completely sticks to their parenting plans, but it seems to me that reality’s a little messier. We all have these ideas of what we will and won’t do when they plop the baby in our arms, show us to the hospital door, and wish us luck, but the one thing that most of us can’t avoid is the fact that the person who went into the hospital is not the person who leaves. And the person standing over the changing table at one month, is not the same person holding the bottle at three months. The demands, the smiles, and the responsibilities of a child will tweak even the most stubborn of thought processes, and I think that’s how it should be.

Still, it’s comforting to know that not all of my thoughts have been altered. Another friend called the other night and asked about going camping this summer. I wonder how Linda’s ideas about my going away have changed?

112 days old

Friday, March 11, 2011

Two Quick, Unrelated Tidbits

1. Coolest gift received by Violet today - A Young Mad Scientist's First Alphabet Blocks

A complete list of the images represented by the letters is as follows:

A - Appendages
B - Bioengineering
C - Caffeine
D - Dirigible
E - Experiment
F - Freeze ray
G - Goggles
H - Henchmen
I - Invention
J - Jargon
K - Potassium
L - Laser
M - Maniacal
N - Nanotechnology
O - Organs
P - Peasants (with Pitchforks)
Q - Quantum physics
R - Robot
S - Self-experimentation
T - Tentacles
U - Underground Lair
V - Virus
W - Wrench
X - X-Ray
Y - You, the Mad Scientist of Tomorrow
Z - Zombies

2. I hope Violet grows up to be someone who can appreciate a sad story.

111 days old

Thursday, March 10, 2011

I Am Trying to Break Your Heart

When Violet reached the three month mark, we dutifully opened What to Expect… and looked over what we could over the coming weeks. One of the milestones is when a baby can keep her head straight while being pulled by her arms from a prone position into a sitting one (before this, the baby’s head will tilt backwards). We tried it with Violet and saw that her neck muscles were just not ready yet – her head rolled back as if she was shimmying under a limbo stick. Every once in a while, we’d try it again. Today, Violet’s Jolly Jumper arrived in the mail, and, as if on cue, her neck muscles are now capable of holding her neck straight as she’s raised up. It feels selfish to be saddened by this, and, at the same time, it feels inaccurate to be proud of her for doing nothing beyond developing as a baby should – but I can’t help it.

110 days old

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Easing Up

So, I’ve figured it out, at least for now. Remember how I said Violet’s been fussing at her middle-of-the-night feeding, eating only about half of the bottle and then refusing to eat the rest, despite good burps and clean diapers? Over the weekend, she continued to do it, but on early Sunday morning, after she was burped and changed, I tried something different. After fighting with her for a few minutes, I decided just to let her be, to hold her in my arms and rock in the rocking chair. She settled down after a few minutes and just stared at me, smiling little smiles now and then. After a few more minutes, I held the bottle near her lips and – boom – in it went without a problem. She sucked the rest of it down, and off to bed she went. I did the same thing the past few nights. Hopefully, this will continue. Who knows?

109 days old

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Blanket and Crib

NPR News puts out a great hourly podcast for free that recaps the days top stories. I download it before I leave work for the day and spend the first five minutes of my drive catching up on what’s going outside my little circle of existence. I listen to the stories of autocrats unwilling to step down as their countries crumbles around them, politicians embroiled in scandal and endless bickering, unhinged gunmen, and all the rest. Sometimes, it’s depressing, other times I can stay detached, but most times, I’m left wondering how people end up doing the things they do. I know it’s pointless to think about it – everyone’s a hero in their own mind, but lately, the question has come up more often. As I stare at Violet over her bottle, I’m left wondering how these people can grow from a charming bundle of fuzzy hair and chubby thighs, not unlike what I hold in my arms, into the people that I hear about on the news. It happens everyday, but if you think about it, the transformation is astonishing. And then the other day, after I was finished listening to my little blast of 5-minute news, I was searching my iPod for some palette cleansing music. I ended up choosing an album by the band Okkervill River, a band from Austin, Texas that writes some great, literate heart-on-your-sleeve music. Their song “Blanket and Crib” was the first one to come on, and about halfway through the song, these lyrics came out of the speaker, and they seemed appropriate to what I’ve been thinking about:

And my mother once said “Son, remember this, no matter what someone did: that they once were just a kid at breast and in bib, in blanket and crib. So just reach inside yourself and find the part that still needs help, find that part in someone else and you’ll do good,” so I thought that I would…
Great advice, no? Maybe I can get that embroidered on a pillow for Violet, or at least send a copy to that special someone in Washington, DC.

108 days old

Monday, March 7, 2011

Cloth Diaper Report #2

We are now on the final snaps of Violet’s small cloth diapers. They are as large as they can get. We were lucky enough to have gotten the set of 24 diapers from some close friends of ours, and we went along assuming that they would have a medium set for us when the time was right. It was not to be – their medium set is in use by another family member, so we’re on our own. They did give us their set of large cloth diapers, and we have another set that was given to us by one of my classroom parents last year (it’s crazy how generous people have been…). We tried to put one of the large diapers on Violet, hoping that maybe we could get by using them on the smallest sizing, but she would’ve looked like she was wearing a puffy, sleeveless bathing suit. You might be wondering why we don’t just order a set of our own, and we’d thought about it some time ago, fearing that this might happen. The truth is that reusable diapers are an upfront investment. A set of 24 FuzziBunz (the brand we use) cost between $350-$400 (about $15 each). They’re worth it in the long run, especially considering how much a pack of disposables cost, but for us, that amount of money hurts. So, yesterday, I spent some time looking online for a deal. Believe it or not, there’s a website – diaperswappers – that is a forum for people trading, selling, and buying cloth diapers. We looked at a few lots for sale, but most had something wrong with them that turned us off – loose elastic, staining, etc. Finally, we ended up on eBay and found a brand of diapers called Papoose. The price seemed too good to be true – 24 diapers for $86 (about $3.50 each). I checked around on other sites and couldn’t find a single negative review of the brand, but I did find many positive ones. A woman even posted a video on YouTube comparing Papoose to two other brands and proclaimed Papoose the best. The sketchy part? They’re from China, which leaves me wondering if they’re crafted from recycled circuit boards and coated in lead and the shipping time was listed ominously as “varies”, but again, I couldn’t find any bad reviews, so we ordered them. As if to confirm my fears, I received this amusingly worded follow up email from the sender today:
i am sorry to bother you, friend, thanks for you buying, would you please tell me which color are in need? or would you mind we sending them by random color? look forward to your reply. thanks.
I’ll let you know how they work out, if and when they arrive…

107 days old

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Off to See Great Grandma

We went to Linda's grandmother's birthday today - Violet's first meeting with her great grandmother. Four generations of women from Linda's family in one room!

106 days old

Saturday, March 5, 2011

A Vision of the Future?

I spent a good portion of today boiling maple sap. I have six buckets hanging on tapped trees along the ridge just north of our house, and yesterday’s warm temperatures set the sap flowing. This morning, I slogged up to the ridge through the rain and the gray, waning remains of February’s snow, two five gallon buckets in hand, and emptied the cold, clear sap into them, filling both of them nearly to the top. Sap weighs about the same as water, eight pounds to a gallon, so I was winded by the time I made it back to the house; winded and wet. The rain and wind had gotten worse. I set my two buckets in line next to two others on our back patio; sap I had gathered earlier in the week. About twenty gallons of sap all told, enough for about half a gallon of syrup.

As I set up my burner and dug the boiling pans out of the garage, my eyes kept going to the sap in the buckets. It looked clearer than water somehow, but by the end of the day it would be a deep amber. I thought of Violet, sleeping upstairs in the warm house, Linda watching over her. Pouring the sap into pans and lighting the burners underneath, it occurred to me that the motions I would go through today were not unlike those I would be going through with Violet over the coming years; starting out with something pure, something completely natural and unadulterated, I would attempt to use what I’ve learned to turn it into something both useful and valued. It would be darker than at the start, that would be unavoidable, but it would be sweeter, too – more complex.

I was pleased with myself for coming up with the metaphor, and I worked the idea around in my head for some time. But by mid-morning, I got involved in other things. I stayed away from the sap for too long, and the sap burned down into a flaming mess, black and sticky bubbles roiling in the ruined pan.

For Violet’s sake, I pray nothing happens to Linda.

105 days old

Friday, March 4, 2011

I Will Not Ban Them In a House. Or With a Mouse

It was Dr. Seuss's birthday this week, and the related activities that went on at my school spilled over into what I read to Violet at home. Hop on Pop, There's a Wocket in My Pocket, Thidwick the Big-Hearted Moose, and The Lorax. (She has no idea what I'm reading - half the time she's inadvertently kicking the book, not even looking at it, or thinking about crying, but I know the time spent with her, along with her hearing the words and my voice, as well as the routine of reading, are all valuable endeavors.) The book we read tonight - The Lorax - is a book I plan on reading to her again and again, so I was stunned to find out this week that the book was banned at one time because it was thought to criminalize the forest industry. Even if it did, I can't fathom the mindset that would arrive at book banning as a logical solution. I plan on making sure Violet understands why banning books is so counterproductive. We're starting Catcher in the Rye tomorrow...or maybe Green Eggs and Ham.

104 days old

Thursday, March 3, 2011

How Does This Thing Work Again?

How, at in the morning, can a baby be drinking contentedly from a bottle, and then suddenly forget how to do it? And then act like I'm doing something wrong?

103 days old

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

First Sign of...

Yesterday morning found a red-winged blackbird scratching under my birdfeeder. It stood out among the usual collection of songbirds because I hadn't seen one since last fall. Many people peg the robin as the first bird of spring, but too many of those birds stick around throughout the year. When I see a male red-wing, I know spring can't be far behind. I keep a little black book of such sightings - the first red-wing, the first bluebird, the first maple sap run, the first spring beauty blossom, and I write down sightings from the other end of the year, too; the last monarch butterfly, the first measurable snowfall. Flipping through the worn pages, it's easy to see that the winter months have the fewest sightings recorded and late winter/early spring has the most. It's easily the most thrilling time of year for anyone paying attention to the comings and goings of local wildlife, and marking down those events helps me connect to their annual rhythms. Writing down this year’s first red-wing sighting, it occurred to me that this blog is something similar. I write down/record Violet’s first this or that, trying to connect with it beyond just watching it happen. The distressing part is that these natural events are not part of an annual cycle. Violet’s “firsts” will only come once.

102 days old

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Sandman (with dustbuster)

In a previous post, I wrote about how Violet was approaching the age when she could begin to understand cause-and-effect relationships in the world around her. She is now at that age, and already I can see her testing things out. Not in the ways I want her to, of course; she doesn’t appear to understand that if she kicks the upright support on her rainforest play mat that a song will play, but tonight, when we put her to bed, we did so while she was still awake. (She is, at this stage, supposed to be learning to “soothe herself.”) Instead, she started yelling as soon as I placed her into the bassinet. Not crying, mind you, but a yelling, bullshit sort of crying – the kind that says, “I don’t want to go to sleep, and if you were any sort of parent who loved me, you would come and pick me up right now and make me feel better.” I’ve read and been told by other parents to “just let her cry,” and I did. Three minutes went by. Four minutes. Five minutes, and I wrestled with going in, not wanting to set the idea in her head that “They put me in bed. I cry. They come get me out.” Still, the yelling continued. I crouched down (not wanting Violet to see me) and went into the bedroom, intent on starting the bassinet rocking, and wondered to myself if Violet was capable of smelling my presence, or if she could equate the shadow moving on the wall to my entering the room. Maybe I gave her too much credit, but the yelling continued. In the end, I brought in Linda’s iPod and slid it into the bassinet, letting the recorded sound of our dustbuster lull Violet to sleep. I felt a little defeated, like I gave up Poland a little too easily, but I didn’t have to pick her up once I put her down for the night. So that’s something.

101 days old